Skydance Interactive’s first dip into the world of virtual reality (VR) has been met with a considerable amount of anticipation, following a trailer revealed earlier this week. Debuting in hands-on form at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, Archangel has proven to be a good-looking videogame, with a decent enough amount of smarts to back it up.
Firstly, let’s get the stigma out of the way. Yes, Archangel is an on-rails experience. It’s no StarFox, but it certainly attempts to make up for the lack of user initiative by way of its motion-controls. The player is positioned with a skyscraper-tall mech, and is equipped with a small variety of weaponry. More interesting however, is the videogame’s shield mechanic: each arm has a temporary shield that can be enabled, allowing for impenetrable defence within a specific radius around the shield emitter. That radius does not encompass the whole body, and the arm upon which the shield is being emitted from can no longer be used to fire. This results in lots of swift and tactical decisions as you attempt to raise a shield from one arm and shoot around it before switching, throwing your arms across your body to ensure both protection and equal aggression.
The preview build available at E3 2017 consisted of two levels. The first, suggested to be an early level in the final release, saw the player begin without weaponry; simply left to learn the basics of shield use before being allowed to retaliate. Once in motion the player soon enters an enemy occupied city, taking down infantry, tanks and air units with the two available weapons: a machine gun and a rocket launcher. The second level – a much more difficult option – offers more weapons and level interactivity, but essentially remains the same experience.
That level interactivity is based around scripted events which demand the player perform an action at a set time before being able to progress. The first level required the player to punch some stone bridges in order to progress, while the second sought the draining of energy from generators. Both required use of the motion-controllers for direct input, neither seemed to offer any benefit aside from altering the videogame’s pacing.
On a visual front, Archangel is a very impressive looking videogame. Far reaching draw distances and densely populated environments are matched by striking particle effects. The animation of the mech’s arms seemed so accurate as to almost know where the player’s elbow was in relation to their movement, and the attention paid to signposting – highlighting of enemy units, indicators for both friendly and incoming fire – has certainly been born of experience.
Archangel was certainly enjoyable for this short demonstration, but it’s difficult not to wonder about the longevity of such an experience. Despite the videogame’s commendable visual design you have to wonder whether Skydance Interactive has kept up with the times; VR at E3 this year is very different to what was on offer last year, and Archangel feels very similar to the first wave of titles made available for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. It’s only a few weeks until we get to find out whether the development team has made Archangel an experience worth a few hours investment, or fears of simplistic and repetitive gameplay come to fruition.